Ahern outlines handgun ban proposals

 

The Government has outlined its proposals for a ban on licensing handguns, which may be expanded to include all firearms in the future.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said the legislation, which will be published shortly as part of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous) Provisions Bill, had been drawn up in response to increasing concern over the proliferation of firearms.

A "temporary custody order" on handguns, which was imposed in the early 1970s due to the Troubles, was overturned by the High Court in 2004. Since then, nearly 1,900 have been licensed in the State. It is expected that figure could exceed 4,000 within three years,.

“My concern is that unless strong and decisive action is taken the number of handguns could grow exponentially and our firearms regime would equate to that of countries such as the United States,” Mr Ahern said.

“While I know the vast majority of licensed gun owners behave responsibly, my paramount concern must be the protection of the public, particularly against the background of the level of gun crime which is taking place,” Mr Ahern added.

Under the proposals, no new licences will be issued for handguns and existing licenses will not be renewed unless applications fully meet the requirements of “a radically tightened licensing procedure where the safety of the community will be paramount”, the Minister said.

Any licence awarded between now and the enactment of the new legislation will be revoked.

Mr Ahern said the situation regarding handguns will be kept under review and could lead to an outright ban on all guns if firearms remain a threat to public safety.

The only exemptions will be for those using handguns for Olympic sports. Mr Ahern said the the majority of gun owners will not be inconvenienced as they have “no interest” in acquiring handguns.

Figures obtained two weeks ago by John Deasy TD (FG) revealed major inconsistencies in the way gardaí across the State were interpreting laws around the granting of handgun licences.

Some Garda districts have granted no licences for handguns while others, in more sparsely populated areas, have been much more liberal, issuing between 50 and 100 licences a year.

The total number of firearms licences issued, for all gun types, reached 233,934 in the 12-month period to July 31st last. This figure has grown steadily from 215,856 in 2004.